Tyler Perry: His Money Machine Is At It Again

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In the entertainment industry it's almost impossible to consistently churn out profitable hits.

But Tyler Perry, who is a writer/producer/director/actor, has done it, and this weekend he's on track to continue his wining streak.

Tomorrow Lions Gatereleases "Tyler Perry's the Family that Preys" on 2,000 screens, the seventh movie from the filmmaker who consistently delivers low-budget hits, without expensive marketing.

If you haven't heard of Perry, you'll be stunned by the range of his success. DVDs of his films and stage plays have sold more than 11 million copies. His first TV show on TBS, "House of Payne," is the most-watched original sitcom ever in the history of cable TV. His 11 stage shows have sold $150 million worth of tickets. He has a series of books, one of which debuted atop the New York Times bestseller list, staying there for eight weeks.

Theaters are sure to be packed this weekend with Perry's dedicated African-American fan base. "The Family that Preys" is predicted to top the box office with an estimated $18 million gross, beating other films that are showing on more screens.

This weekend's drama co-stars Oscar winner Kathy Bates and Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard, and focuses on both an African-American and a white family, making it Perry's first film that's likely to cross over from his established African-American fan base. This film is serious, but Perry is probably best known for his comedic "Madea" franchise. Perry consistently churns one drama and one comedy every year, all distributed by Lions Gate, the studio he's been partnered with for years.

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In fact, Lions Gate recently signed a deal to expand their relationship with Perry-- building his annual output from two, to six or even eight films a year. With that new backing Perry told me he plans to experiment with new genres, perhaps making a kids movie or a horror film. Lions Gate Vice Chairman Michael Burns tells me that Perry has been a key part of his company's growth, and with his new studio, it seems the sky's the limit.

Perry is also a TV phenomenon, and a cash cow for Time Warner'sTBS cable network. TBS paid $100 for an unprecedented order of 100 episodes of "House of Payne," then upping its order to an even more unprecedented 126 episodes. The high-rated show is going into syndication this month. And TBS has picked up a second show from him, ordering "Meet the Browns," based on one of his films, to debut in October.

In an industry where success is fleeting, Perry seems to be rewriting the rules of the game.

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